Celebrating African Americans in Aviation

Willa Brown

Willa Brown
Willa B. Brown was born January 21, 1906 in Glasgow, Kentucky. In 1927 she received her Bachelor's degree at Indiana State Teacher's College and went on to teach at a school in Gary, Indiana. In 1934 she began taking flying lessons, influenced by the pioneering aviatrix, Bessie Coleman, and in 1937 received her pilot's license, making her the first African American woman to be licensed in the United States. In 1939 she wed Cornelius Coffey and founded the National Airmen's Association of America, one of the first black aviation associations that lobbied Congress for the racial integration of the U.S. Army Air Corps. Together with her husband, they created the Coffey School of Aeronautics at Harlem Airport in Chicago, where they trained black pilots in aviation mechanics. It was the first flight school owned and operated by blacks.
With her flying service and aviation credentials, the U.S. government named Brown as the federal coordinator of the Chicago unit of the Civil Air Patrol civilian pilot training program in 1941 and she was ranked an officer in this first integrated unit. Later, the Coffey flight school was also selected by the U.S. Army to provide black trainees for the Air Corps pilot training program at the Tuskegee Institute. As school director, Brown was instrumental in training more than 200 students who went on to become the legendary Tuskegee airmen.
In 1943, she became the first woman in the United States who possessed both a mechanic's license and a commercial license in aviation.

Jill E. Brown-Hiltz

Jill E. Brown-Hiltz
Jill Elaine Brown was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1950. She graduated from Arundel High School and has a Bachelor of Science in home economics from the University of Maryland. When she was 17, her entire family took up flying as a hobby because, "Daddy was tired of getting speeding tickets," she was quoted as saying. After she graduated from the University of Maryland, she took up a teaching position, but soon discovered that she wanted more. She decided to rekindle her love and interest in flying, spending her spare time and money on flying lessons where she earned her instrumental, commercial, and instructor's ratings.
In 1974, Brown signed up for flight training in the United States Navy, and was the first black woman to be admitted into the program. However, her career with the Navy ended after only six months, and she was honorably discharged. Afterwards, she resumed flight training and earned her multiengine rating, and later worked for Wheeler Airlines in North Carolina, first as a ticket-seller and then as a co-pilot. After she logged 800 flight hours, on top of the 400 hours she already had, she qualified to be a commercial airline pilot and left Wheeler for Texas International Airport and in 1978 Brown received her wings as the first African-American female pilot to fly for a major U.S. commercial airline.
After six months of employment with Texas International, she left and gained employment as a co pilot at Zantop International Airlines, a cargo carrier based in Michigan, where she remained until sometime in the mid-1980s.

Patricia Banks and Capital Airlines
In 1960, after a lengthy and tedious process of court sessions, the New York State Commission against Discrimination faulted Capital Airlines for failing to hire Patricia Banks, a black woman who had been denied employment as a flight attendant despite meeting all job requirements, due to her race. They were then given 30 days in which to hire her, and became only one of two black flight attendants in the country.

Captain Patrice Clarke-Washington
Patrice Francise Clarke was born on September 11, 1961, in Nassau, Bahamas. She first became interested in aviation when she participated in career week activities at her high school in Nassau, Bahamas, and at that time it was an interest in becoming a stewardess. However, that soon changed, and her interest soon turned to becoming a pilot. Clarke attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida and graduated in April, 1982, with a commercial pilot's certificate and a Bachelor's of Science in aeronautical science, and was the first black woman to graduate from the university.
Clarke's career involved working for a few different airlines, starting as a pilot for a charter company, Trans Island Airways, in the Bahamas, from 1982-1984. She then flew as a first officer with Bahamasair from 1984-1988 before she was hired as a flight engineer for United Parcel Service in May 1988. While working as a first officer for UPS she was promoted to captain in November, 1994, becoming the first black female pilot with a commercial airline. Also, in 1994, she married Ray Washington, a captain for American Airlines.

Ruth Carol Taylor
Ruth Carol Taylor was born on December 27, 1931 in Boston, Massachusetts. Taylor attended Elmira College and graduated as a Registered Nurse from the Bellevue School of Nursing in New York and worked as a nurse for the New York City Transit Authority. Irritated at the racial discrimination being shown to people of color, and the denial of them being able to apply for the position, Taylor applied for a job as a stewardess with Mohawk Airlines. Taylor was only one of about 800 black females that were interviewed by Mohawk Airlines, and in December 1957 was hired with the company. On February 11, 1958, Taylor became the first black female stewardess in the United States.
However, after only six months she was let go due to a another discriminatory barrier: the airline's marriage ban, a common practice among airlines of the day of dismissing flight attendants who became either married or pregnant. While her career as a stewardess was short-lived, her contributions were not, and soon after she was hired, TWA also began hiring black flight attendants, and others followed.

Lieutenant Jeanine McIntosh-Menze
Jeanine McIntosh was born in Jamaica in 1979. At an early age McIntosh had a love for airplanes, watching them soar overhead at her community of Portmore. McIntosh attended Vaz Preparatory School in Kingston before migrating with her family to Canada where they settled before relocating to South Florida. There, she attended high school at Miami Killian High School and graduated from Florida International University where she studied International Business.
After graduating she decided to pursue her love of flying, eventually taking flying lessons at the North Perry Airport in Pembroke Pines and afterwards getting a job as a flight instructor at Opa-Locka Airport in North Miami. While she worked there, she was exposed to the careers in the United States Coast Guard because of all the carriers there, and her interest to fly one of the planes.
In 2003 McIntosh joined the US Coast Guard after graduating from the Coast Guard Officer Candidate School. McIntosh began her Coast Guard aviation training at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas in January 2005. In June of the same year, she earned her wings, becoming the first black female to successfully complete flight training and be assigned as a pilot in the US Coast Guard.

Continue >>

rounded bottom